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Why do we daydream?

By Sunday, March 15, 2015 ,

What is a daydream? According to the dictionary: A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one's attention from the present.


girl walking


I have to agree 100% with that description as I have the tendency to indulge in constant daydreaming and I firmly believe that it can be of great benefit to everyone if they know how to use it to their advantage.  As a matter of fact, I am thankful we as humans are allowed and capable to have daytime fantasies, otherwise I would have already gone insane. 

But, why do we daydream?  In trying to figure out why, there are hints to be found in what we daydream about.
"Just about every thought that people have, is related directly or indirectly to one of their goals," says Professor Eric Klinger from the University of Minnesota, who has been researching daydreaming and mind wandering since the 1970s. 
"Most of these goals are extremely basic and many of them are short-term," he says, "like trying to remember to buy tomatoes on the way home or worrying about what you're going to say to somebody."


Most of my daydreams, however, do occur after dark.  Yes, it is in the comfort of my bed when I'm tossing and turning that I let my mind drift and think of all the "What if's? About my life. 
It is there where I imagine all the possibilities about future and past intentions.  Like that trip to France, I have always desired to take.  I close my eyes and avoid thinking about current problems, debt, and other anomalies by simply dreaming and traveling inside my mind. I can actually see me going on the airplane, I can hear people speaking French and even go for a tour of the museums, the Eiffel tower and of course, I sit down at a cafĂ© and have a croissant and a latte.

Does that seem ridiculous to you? I hope not, we all do it, I reckon...  Plus, it has been analyzed by many important philosophers. 

In the late 1960s, cognitive psychologists Jerome L. Singer of Yale University and John S. Antrobus of the City College of New York, created a daydream questionnaire. The questionnaire called the Imaginal Processes Inventory (IPI), has been used to investigate daydreams. Psychologists Leonard Giambra and George Huba used the IPI and found that daydreamers' imaginary images vary in three ways: how vivid or enjoyable the daydreams are, how many guilt- or fear-filled daydreams they have, and how "deeply" into the daydream people go.  

By reading the above statement, I suppose we can say, I take my daydreaming to the deepest level, and I am not ashamed of admitting to it. Besides, this process can help prepare us for the future, whether it be in a few minutes time or further down the path. "It's a rehearsal mechanism," says Klinger. "It's spontaneous, it's not a deliberate rehearsal, but it plays a role in priming us."

Daydreaming can also be a source of creative inspiration. "We often discover solutions or better ways of doing things than we would have, had we not had the mind-wandering space," says Klinger. So proving my point that daydreaming can hold many benefits for everyone. 

Although it has also been said that it can be very adverse.
A 2010 study published in the prestigious journal Science found people were less happy when their mind was wandering. In the study, more than 2000 people had their daily activities interrupted by an app that asked them about whether they were daydreaming at that moment, and how they felt.  People were less happy when daydreaming than when they were focused on the chore at hand. Other studies indicate a wandering mind is more common when our mood is low, and that it can enhance feelings of depression.

Frankly, I don't know what to think about that research since for me, daydreaming has always been my escape route, and I have been able to survive many bad experiences by turning my mind off and focusing on my imagination.

There is no doubt that many people may take daydream fantasies to an extreme level, however, I want to end this on a positive note by encouraging you to use your daydreams when times get rough and you can't stop thinking about negative experiences.  Concentrate and fly away from your problems by doing the things that make you happy, even if it's just in your mind.  I know you won't escape forever, but for a short while you'll forget, and that might help you sleep and even come out with a solution. Look, daydreaming is safe, cheap and it's easy to do. Use it to your advantage wherever possible. 

Remember, everything is good in moderation.  Always be truthful to yourself, and don't stop at daydreaming, work on making those thoughts a reality!


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